Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Scriptures excavated at Smyrna: Conjectural Emendation Suggested

There is a report on-line that 'Greek scriptures' have been discovered during an excavation of the Agora at Smyrna (see here).

"Following long stages of expropriaton and demolition work held by the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality, the Agora excavations continue to reveal new findings, such as Greek scriptures and drawings from Roman times."

This is so implausible that it is crying out for a conjectural emendation: "Greek graffiti" are surely what is meant (up-dated in light of the comments). This makes better sense of the second occurrence:
"Some scriptures written in Greek as well as some drawings pertaining to the Roman and Hellenistic times are expected to give clues about the daily life at the time."

For further discussion of this graffiti see Ben Witherington's report from SBL (up-dated from the comments)

[Probably a translation error: what is the Turkish?]


  1. You may find the Turkish here (link).

    I'm guessing the translation issue is over the Turkish "grafitiler" (and other forms thereof) which seems to be miscellaneously rendered both "Scriptures" and "Graffiti" in the English translation.

    Probably the best translation is simply writings. Given the nature of the work, inscriptions or painted words are possible. It does seem doubtful to me as well that the intended sense is Scriptures.

    Perhaps someone who is more of an expert in Turkish could weigh in, though.


  2. Should you prefer to have a more printable format, A pdf of the Turkish article is apparently available here.

  3. For many years now, Roger Bagnall of Columbia University has been involved in the conservation and study of graffiti on plaster in the agora of ancient Smyrna. He presented some fascinating results from this project at the recent SBL in Boston. Ben Witherington reported about this on his blog here:

    Bagnall also took initiative to launch the digital resource Advanced Papyrological Information System (APIS).

  4. Yes, I think probably that is what is meant. Cf. also here for mention of graffiti in Smyrna:

  5. Hello,
    I'm a first time visitor missionary evangelist in Italy. I'm wondering if you can help me...I'm trying to find the 3 best reasons to trust the reliability of the New Testament.
    Can you give me yours?

  6. S.i.M.: "to trust the reliability of the New Testament."

    Do you mean the reliability of the New Testament text?

    You can listen to a debate relevant to your question between one of the ETC bloggers, Peter Williams, and Bart Ehrman here:{51D59EC4-5ED8-41FC-B79A-7CB2590EABE9}

    Last year there was a debate on this very topic in New Orleans, see:

    Read a summary of Dan Wallace's arguments for the reliability of the text here:

  7. I just found this, and I know just enough Turkish to make sense of the original. The first English text you quote seems to be a rather free translation of the first paragraph of Turkish. The relevant phrase in this paragraph is "Yunanca yazılar", as I expected when I saw the translation. "Yazı" (plural "yazılar") simply means "writing" or "text", and is used both of the Scriptures and of any kind of inscription, or for that matter any other kind of writing. "Yunanca" means "in Greek (language)".

    Considering that only 100 years ago İzmir was a largely Greek speaking city, it is important to note the date given, 2nd century CE.

    The word "grafitiler" appears only in the third paragraph, probably referring to the same texts and with the obvious sense.

    You can see a translation of a sort here:

    To undermine the history of Izmir squirt
    [?? Better: "As the bottom of Izmir is dug history gushes out", probably a metaphor from drilling for oil]
    January 10, 2009

    İzmir Metropolitan Municipality expropriated the winning pace with new findings emerged in the Agora excavations. Hellenistic and Roman period, with drawings of the excavations, the city's daily life on the Greek texts also give important clues were found. Expropriated in the domain tessellation is important to the history of İzmir.

    Days of the date of the city to face off for the important projects at the İzmir Metropolitan Municipality; Agora and its environs park archeology and history as editing in the region to prepare the Dokuz Eylül University Department of Archeology by continuing from the work of the archaeological findings, the history of Izmir further enriched.

    Excavation work on the final plaster grafitiler found. Used in this work and in the Hellenistic and Roman period, important tips on the ship's maritime transport and human faces were detected drawings. Christ after the 2nd century after the work is still estimated grafitilerin conservation while the city's daily life on the Greek text gives important clues on the nature. Also detected in the drawings of ships, ships in that period is expected to provide important information about the typology.

    Works belonging to the Ottomans
    Excavation of tessellation, size and place to be protected has to be a first for İzmir. The huge size of the mosaic consists of geometric patterns, arrangements will be made to special protection. However, studies in the last period of the Ottoman period, the test, plates, jars and similar containers for everyday use, Agora's small businesses during this period is found to be concentrated in a region that is put. Studies in the region detected traces of ancient sewage, Agora's in and around residential areas to the waste water will solve the problem of the need for clean water when the cistern is made of was detected.

    Agora and its environs "Archeology and History Park as" the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality plans to regulate, for expropriation in the region is so far paid 20 million 307 thousand 359 TL. Studies last year under the Agora, Smyrna, and only the labor and materials for Phokai'deki excavations in the amount of approximately USD 2 million was transferred resources. Destroyed by the municipality and the excavation team moved around the archeological excavation areas, are surrounded by wire netting or wall is made safe. Then it is transferred to the excavation team.